WaterAid: Climate change is felt most powerfully through water

8 October 2018
Employees and companies, Corporate engagement, Water, Toilets, Hygiene
Image: WaterAid/Jordi Ruiz Cirera


October 8, 2018—WaterAid today has responded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report, Global Warming at 1.5 degrees C.

Jonathan Farr, senior policy analyst on climate change and water security at WaterAid, said:

"This report explains in very clear terms the devastating impact climate change is going to have on the world’s poorest if we don’t act: hundreds of millions more people facing poverty, disease and death within a generation.

“Climate change is felt most powerfully through water – through flooding, extreme weather, pollution, and drought. These disastrous impacts are happening now, and those communities who have contributed least to carbon emissions are the ones already struggling to cope.

“WaterAid is working with communities to boost resilience to water supplies and sanitation services in the face of dramatic climactic changes. But it’s not enough to talk: we need to see the decisive political actions and financing required to secure the livelihoods of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, as they have no choice but to adapt to this difficult new reality.”

Among the report’s headlines:

  • Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.
  • Least-developed countries, alongside Arctic ecosystems, dryland regions, and small-island developing states are at disproportionately higher risk from climate change.
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with 2 degrees Celsius, could reduce the number of people exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050. It may also reduce the proportion of the world population exposed to climate-change-induced increase in water stress by up to 50%, with variability among regions.
  • Sea level rise will continue beyond 2100 even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C in the 21st century, due to marine ice sheet instability in Antarctica and/or irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet. This means coastal and low-lying communities have no choice but to adapt to rising seas.
  • Increasing warming amplifies the exposure of small islands, low-lying coastal areas and deltas to the risks associated with sea level rise, including increased saltwater intrusion, flooding and damage to infrastructure.
  • Adaptations which reduce the vulnerability of communities to climactic changes can also contribute to sustainable development, through ensuring food and water supplies, improving health and reducing the risk of disaster. However poorly planned adaptation threatens to increase both greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

WaterAid supports the IPCC’s calls for international cooperation and strengthened capacity for climate action among national and sub-national authorities, civil society, private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities.


For more information, contact Emily Haile, Senior Media and Communications Manager at [email protected] or 212-683-0430.

Notes to editors:


WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international nonprofit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. 

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]

  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]

  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]

  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database www.WASHwatch.org

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[3] washwatch.org

[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage

[5] www.wateraid.org